Africa Media Review for November 5, 2018

Gunmen in Egypt Attack Bus Carrying Christians, Killing at Least 8 and Wounding 13
Gunmen said to be from the Islamic State opened fire on a bus carrying worshipers returning from a remote Coptic Christian monastery in upper Egypt on Friday, killing at least eight and wounding 13, said a top religious leader and local officials. “Terrorists opened fire on a bus carrying people,” Coptic Christian Archbishop Makarious of Minya, a town roughly 150 miles south of Cairo, said in a phone interview. The pilgrims, said community leaders, were returning from a visit to Saint Samuel the Confessor Monastery in a remote patch of Egypt’s western desert. Six of those killed were from the same family, according to a post on the Facebook page of the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt. On Friday evening, Egypt’s Islamic State affiliate, which has vowed to target the nation’s minority Coptic Christians, claimed responsibility for the attack through its Amaq news service. The Washington Post

Coptic Christian Attack: Egypt Police ‘Kill 19 Attackers’
Nineteen Islamist militants accused of carrying out a deadly attack on Christians in Egypt have been killed by police, the interior ministry says. They died in a shoot-out after police pursued “fugitive terrorist elements” into the desert area west of Minya province, the statement said. Seven Coptic Christians were killed in an attack on two buses near a monastery in Minya on Friday. The Islamic State (IS) group has said it carried out the attack. It was the latest in a series of attacks by extremists on Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority. The ministry said security forces had exchanged fire with “terrorist elements” they were pursuing, although it did not say exactly when the firefight happened. The ministry posted images of bodies and a tent in which the militants were said to have been hiding. Guns, rifles and IS propaganda can be seen next to the bodies.  BBC

Egypt Rights Group Halts Work amid Arrests
An Egyptian rights group which has supported victims of alleged police torture and forced disappearances says it is halting operations amid a sweeping government crackdown. The Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms said Sunday that another member, lawyer Mohamed Horira, was arrested last week. Horira is married to Aisha Khairat el-Shater, the daughter of an imprisoned senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood. She was also arrested last week. Authorities have arrested thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members since the 2013 military overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi, who had been a prominent member of the Islamist group. The leaders of the rights group, lawyers Ezzat Ghoneim and Azzoz Mahgoub, were forcibly disappeared and later charged with plotting against the government. They remain in detention despite a court ordering their release.  AP

Gabon Opposition Figure Rallies Support as President Hospitalised
Gabonese opposition politician Jean Ping on Saturday repeated his claim to have won 2016 elections as President Ali Bongo Ondimba remained in hospital in Saudi Arabia. Ping has continued to describe himself as “the elected president” following his defeat by a few thousand votes in controversial polls two years ago that were marred by bloodshed. Breaking several months’ silence on the issue, Ping said he wanted to speak to all Gabonese citizens and called on them to “transcend their divisions and place the nation above our individual ethnic or clan interests”. In a “speech to the nation” from his home in Libreville, he called for citizens faced with the “worst turbulence” in Gabon’s history to “gather around a common ideal”.  AFP

U.S. to End Trade Benefits for Mauritania over Forced Labor
U.S. President Donald Trump intends to end trade benefits for Mauritania on Jan. 1 for not making sufficient progress on ending forced labor practices, the U.S. Trade Representative’s Office (USTR) said on Friday. In a statement, USTR said Trump has determined after an annual eligibility review that Mauritania is not in compliance with requirements of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which provides duty-free treatment for certain goods. “Forced or compulsory labor practices like hereditary slavery have no place in the 21st century,” Deputy U.S. Trade Representative C.J. Mahoney said. “We hope Mauritania will work with us to eradicate forced labor and hereditary slavery so that its AGOA eligibility may be restored in the future,” Mahoney said. Reuters

U.S. Increases Support for West African Force Fighting Jihadists
The U.S. almost doubled its pledge for the financial support of a West African force that began deploying last year to fight a surge in Islamist militant attacks. Assistance to the force that’s known as G5 Sahel will now total $111 million, from an initial pledge of $60 million made in October 2017, Samantha Reho, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Africa Command in Stuttgart, Germany, said Friday in an emailed response to questions. The additional amount will help “to meet the needs and strengthen the capabilities” of the unit, she said. The 5,000-strong regional force started last year to mobilize troops from member nations — Niger, Mali, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania — to counter militants linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel, a semiarid region, stretching across Africa along the southern end of the Sahara. Incidents of extremist violence in the region have tripled over the past year and resulted in the deaths of 895 people, according to a report by the U.S. Defense Department’s Africa Center for Strategic Studies released Oct. 29.  Bloomberg

Eritrean President Says Trust Growing with Ethiopia, but More Work Needed
Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki says Eritrea and Ethiopia have built trust since signing a peace deal in July, but need to iron out further elements of their ties to make their cooperation sustainable. The neighbors had been bitter enemies ever since a two-year border war, in which some 80,000 people were killed, broke out in 1998 following disagreements over trade. Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, extended an olive branch in April, shortly after his appointment, as part of a package of reforms that have reshaped the political landscape in the Horn of Africa. Since then, the countries have reopened crossing points and embassies and resumed flights between their capitals.  Reuters

ATMs Run Dry as Sudan’s Economic Rot Goes Beyond U.S. Sanctions
Going by his bank statements, Isam Ali isn’t short of money — but in Sudan’s cash-strapped capital that’s exactly what he is. Several times a week, the 45-year-old accountant lines up at one of the few ATMs in Khartoum still dispensing banknotes, waiting hours to withdraw the daily maximum of 2,000 Sudanese pounds ($42). That sum’s being spread increasingly thinly to feed his family, as inflation in the North African nation hits its highest in two decades, quashing hopes 2017’s lifting of U.S. sanctions could spur an economic revival. The reality: three devaluations for the Sudanese pound this year, the central bank rushing to print more money and a government that can only promise further austerity as President Umar al-Bashir periodically hires and fires his ministers.  Bloomberg

Sudan Accepts South Sudanese Mediation in Border Regions
Sudan has for the first time accepted mediation by South Sudan’s leader in peace talks over the restive Sudanese border regions of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, a Sudanese official said on Sunday. Sudan had previously accused its southern neighbor of stoking unrest in the two regions, where rebels kept up a fight against Khartoum’s rule even after most of the territory they fought for decades became independent South Sudan in 2011. Sudan’s government has announced unilateral ceasefires in both regions as well as in Sudan’s troubled western region of Darfur since 2015 and fighting has subsided. Ibrahim al-Sadiq, a spokesman for Sudan’s ruling party, said South Sudanese President Salva Kiir had begun talks with factions from the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) present in South Kordofan and Blue Nile over a peace settlement. Reuters

Madagascar Ex-Presidents in Final Bid to Return to Power
Two former Madagascar presidents drew tens of thousands of supporters to rival rallies in the capital Antananarivo on Saturday as they entered the final stretch of their election campaign. Former President Marc Ravalomanana and rival Andry Rajoelina are frontrunners in the November 7 ballot in Madagascar, where protests earlier this year erupted over a government attempt to reform electoral rules. The election pits Ravalomanana against the man who ousted him from power in 2009 in a military-backed revolt that left the Indian Ocean island state internationally isolated and later struggling with a legacy of bitter political division. Ravalomanana filled the capital’s Mahamasina suburb with his supporters dressed in white, his campaign colour. His rival Rajoelina, head of state from 2009 to 2014, packed out Antsonjombe stadium, a few kilometres away.  AFP

Rebels Kill Seven Civilians Near DR Congo-Uganda Border
Rebels killed at least seven civilians and abducted 15 others, including children, in fresh overnight raids in the far eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, civilian and military sources said Sunday. Fighters of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) staged two raids Saturday night in the North Kivu region bordering Uganda, Teddy Kataliko, leader of the civilian administration in Beni district, told AFP. According to his account, rebels at Mangboko burnt a lorry driver in his vehicle and killed six other civilians, while in Oicha, they killed one person and abducted 15 others — for a total death toll of eight. Beni district administrator Donat Kibwana said seven people were killed and 15 people were abducted, including 10 children. Army spokesman Captain Mak Hazukay also put the death toll at seven. Daily Monitor

Cameroon Separatists Chop Off Fingers of Plantation Workers
Separatist militants attacked workers on a state-run rubber plantation in restive southwestern Cameroon, chopping off their fingers because the men had defied an order to stay away from the farms, authorities said Friday. The attack is the second of its kind in less than a week by the militants, who have responded violently to a government crackdown on separatist activities in the English-speaking parts of the country. David Epie, a 43-year-old worker at a rubber plantation, says armed men attacked him and three of his co-workers on Thursday evening. “I do not know the fate of one of our workers who tried to escape and was shot on the leg,” said Epie, who lost several fingers. He bled as we fled when the attackers were leaving.”  AP

Prince Charles Confronts Slavery for First Time as He Speaks of Britain’s Role in ‘Darkest and Most Painful’ Chapter of Ghana’s History
The Prince of Wales is to acknowledge the role of Britain in the “most painful chapter” of Ghana’s historic relations with Europe, as he speaks of the “appalling atrocity” of the slave trade in a landmark speech. The Prince, who will speak at the invitation of the President of Ghana at an international conference this morning (Monday), will make clear reference to slavery for the first time in such a forum, as he seeks to build Commonwealth ties during a visit to West Africa. Speaking of the “unimaginable suffering” which left an “indelible stain on the history of our world”, he will argue that Britain must take responsibility for ensuring the horrors are never forgotten. Earlier this week, the Prince visited Christiansborg Castle in Osu, walking the same steps that an estimated 1.5million slaves were forced down in the 17th and 18th centuries to be passed through the ‘Door of No Return’ to be trafficked to the New World.  The Telegraph

US Warns Its Citizens in Tanzania Ahead of Anti-Gay Crackdown
The US has warned its citizens in Tanzania to be cautious after commercial capital Dar es Salaam announced a crackdown on homosexuality, which is a criminal offence in the East African country. In an alert on its website late on Saturday, the US Embassy in Tanzania advised Americans to review their social media profiles and internet footprints. “Remove or protect images and language that may run afoul of Tanzanian laws regarding homosexual practices and explicit sexual activity,” it said. The alert said any US citizen who was detained or arrested should ensure the Tanzanian authorities informed the embassy. Times Live

France Vows to Give Assault Rifles and Cash to Central African Republic
Paris will “soon deliver” 1,400 assault rifles to the Central African Republic, France’s foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has announced. The weapons will be given to the government’s Central African Armed Forces, which were established after the country gained independence from France in 1960. Paris will also hand the republic €24.1m (£21.1m) in aid, Mr Le Drian said, which is intended to help pay salaries and build infrastructure. “France wishes to continue its historical partnership with the Central African Republic,” the minister told journalists in CAR’s capital Bangui. He said the arms sales were “within the strict, respectful, and transparent framework of the United Nations, in total transparency concerning the origin, the routing, and the delivery”.  The Independent

Somali Towns Get Health Care after 30 Years of War
The UN Migration Agency has begun providing life-saving health care to two Somali towns previously inaccessible because of war and conflict. Tens of thousands of people in the towns of Gobweyn and Bulla Gaduud have been deprived of life-saving health care for nearly three decades. These areas have been too dangerous for aid workers to reach because of the never-ending cycles of war and conflict in the area. In recent months, International Organization for Migration spokesman, Joel Millman says government forces have succeeded in subduing the armed groups that have made life a misery for local inhabitants. This, he says has opened up these areas to outside help. “For the past 27 years, war and conflict have made healthcare access difficult or impossible in many parts of the country. Now these communities have access to vaccinations, malaria treatment, antenatal care for pregnant mothers, malnutrition screenings and referrals, among other essential services,” Millman said. VOA

Equatorial Guinea Expels 42 Ruling Party Members over Coup Bid
Equatorial Guinea’s ruling party has expelled 42 of its members for their alleged role in a coup bid late last year, party sources said Sunday. The ruling Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea (PDGE) decided to expel them for their role in the failed December 24 coup, said a resolution passed by the party’s disciplinary committee on Friday. Those expelled included a former ambassador, at least two former judges and the former head of security for President Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Africa’s longest-serving leader. They had collaborated with “a group of terrorists and mercenaries”, the party resolution said. In March, the Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), Equatorial Guinea’s second largest opposition party, said the coup bid had been organised from within the ruling party. It was, it argued, a sign of the general discontent with the government. The authorities in the West African country announced in January that they had foiled the coup bid. They blamed the plot on militants from “certain radical opposition parties with the support of certain powers”.  AFP

Ethiopia Launches Visa-on-Arrival for Africa
Ethiopia has launched a visa-on-arrival service for all African travellers. The service, effective from November 1, 2018, aims at making it easy for Africans to visit the country that hosts the African Union (AU) headquarters. It was launched at a ceremony held at the AU Commission headquarters in Addis Ababa on Thursday. “It is truly an honour and a special privilege to witness this historic and truly inspirational day,” said the CEO of the Ethiopian Airlines Group, Mr Tewolde Gebremariam. “Ethiopian Airlines has been bringing Africa together and closer to the world for over seven decades. Today, Ethiopian Airlines flies to 60 African destinations and connects the continent to over 50 major international cities in 5 continents. The East African

How Ethiopia’s Medieval Ruins Inform Its Modern-Day Ethnic Strife
On a wooded hill near Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa, bits of red clay litter the ground next to glittering flakes of obsidian. Nearby, half-buried stones are arranged in a line. On the other side of the hill, a rectangular stone slab appears to have been broken in half. For archaeologists like Samuel Walker and his colleague Ayele Tarekegn, it’s evidence that this was once the site of a medieval city. The bits of clay are shards of pottery, the flakes of obsidian were tools used by artisans to work leather, and the stones probably were once the walls of churches and palaces. “It’s unbelievable that it’s here,” Walker said. “When I saw this, I thought this is just the tip of the iceberg — everywhere we dig, we find stuff.” Archaeological digs are rare in Ethiopia, despite its wealth of potential sites. “It’s a poor country, and archaeology is a very expensive subject,” said Ayele, who is trying to develop the field in the country. “It’s all to do with money and developing the expertise, the personnel and the manpower.”  The Washington Post



Photo: Adam Jones